123D Circuits: Autodesk’s free design tool

123dcircuits

Arduino fanatics rejoice: Autodesk and Circuits.io have jointly released a new electronics design tool with some unique features: 123D Circuits. Anyone familiar with Autodesk knows they have a bit of a habit of taking over the world, but you can relax knowing this is a (pretty much) free product that’s filed under their Free 3D tools—though we’re not quite sure what is “3D” about a circuits layout program.

123D is web-based software, and using it requires account creation on the circuits.io website. Anything you design sits on the cloud: you can collaborate with others and even embed your circuit (with functioning simulation) straight into a webpage. Unfortunately, your work is public and therefore accessible by anyone unless you fork over $12 or $25 monthly: the former only gives you 5 private circuits. Dollar signs pop up again when you hit “finish circuit;” they offer to sell you PCBs in multiples of three.

Some features of the free account, however, may tempt the Arduino veteran away from a go-to program like Fritzing. Plopping in a virtual Arduino lets you edit its code on the fly in another window, which you can then simulate. If you’re new to circuit design or want some guidance for using 123D Circuits, they have provided an extensive list of applicable Instructables. Check out their promotional video below.

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Analog input expansion boards for Raspberry Pi

analog-input-rpi-add-on

[Ken Olsen] needed a bunch of analog inputs for his model railroad project. He wanted to use the Raspberry Pi board, but alas there are no analog inputs available on the GPIO header. But there is SPI. So he used an online service to design his on Analog input expansion boards.

He mentions that Eagle can be a bit of a pain to work with. For this project he decided to give circuits.io a try. This is an in-browser PCB layout tool which we looked at in a links post some time ago. The service lets you order directly from your in-browser design without the need to run gerber files or the like (boards are made using the OSH Park service). He’s very happy with the boards he got back. They feature a footprint for a connector to interface with the RPi.

The design uses MCP3008 Analog to SPI chips. Each has eight channels but [Ken] needed more than that. Since the service provides three copies of the board he made them modular by adding end connectors which chain the SPI and power rails from one board to the next. Don’t miss his full demo in the video after the break.

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Making Eagle work with circuits.io

IO

Ever so slowly, we’re inching towards a world of Internet-based electronic design tools. The state of these tools, including Upverter and other cloud-based solutions, hasn’t been all that great until now; with any new piece of schematic capture and PCB layout software, the libraries will be woefully inadequate in the beginning. This is about to change, because circuits.io is now allowing Eagle libraries to be imported.

As you may well be aware, Eagle is the de facto standard for homebrew and hobbyist schematic capture and board layout software. Even though Eagle isn’t open source and is limited to rather small PCBs with the free version, somehow Eagle has retained its popularity, most likely due to the huge number of component libraries available.

By allowing users and designers to import Eagle libraries, the folks at circuits.io are capitalizing on a huge amount of work done by designers and engineers over the years in creating custom Eagle parts for just about every component imaginable. It’s a great accomplishment for the circuits.io team and a boon for anyone wanting to move their PCB design tools over to the cloud.

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